Yarl’s Wood Immigration Ltd and others v Bedfordshire Police Authority: ComC 30 Sep 2008

The owners of the Yarslwood Immigration centre sought damages under the 1886 Act after a riot at the centre caused substantial damage.
Held: The claim failed: ‘The fact that YWIL and GSL [the appellants] were acting as public authorities exercising coercive powers of the state in carrying out its public function in respect of the Yarl’s Wood immigration detention centre does not per se put them outside the scope of the 1886 Act. However, the fact that they are entities with public law powers and duties for order within the detention centre means that, in respect of loss suffered from riot damage caused by detainees within the centre, they are not qualifying persons within the 1886 Act. The 1886 Act and its predecessors imposed a statutory duty to compensate on those responsible for law and order in a given area. The intention behind the legislation was that local property owners should be entitled to obtain compensation from the body with responsibility for protecting them from the risk of riot. It was not to enable a public authority with a particular responsibility for order within a defined area to seek compensation from another public authority with a broadly equivalent, but not identical, responsibility for order in that area.’
Rix LJ described the rationalisation of the liability of the hundred and now the police authority in these terms: ‘It seems to me that what Lord Mansfield had to say about that question, so much closer to the origin of the first Riot Act 1714, still retains pertinence, expressing as it does the common sense of the matter. It is for the sake of the party whose property has been damaged, it is to encourage the inhabitants (now the police force) of the locality, but including the party injured himself, all to assist in the preservation of the peace, it is to share the burden both of keeping the peace and of the misfortune of loss or injury. Moreover, as is so often the case with strict liability, it is because those who are liable to compensate are also regarded by the law as standing in the shoes of the wrongdoers themselves (as, for instance, in the case of the vicariously liable), in part because their obligation, their strict obligation, is to prevent what has happened happening.’


Beatson J


[2008] EWHC 2207 (Comm), [2009] 1 All ER 886, (2008) 158 NLJ 1415




Riot (Damages) Act 1886


England and Wales


See AlsoBedfordshire Police Authority v Constable and others ComC 20-Jun-2008
The authority insured its primary liability for compensation under the 1886 Act through the claimants and the excess of liability through re-insurers. The parties sought clarification from the court of the respective liabilities of the insurance . .

Cited by:

Appeal fromYarl’s Wood Immigration Ltd and Others v Bedfordshire Police Authority CA 23-Oct-2009
The claimant sought to recover the costs of damage to their centre following a riot, saying that under the 1886 Act, they were liable. It appealed against a ruling that they were unable to claim as a public authority, saying that the 1886 Act was . .
See AlsoBedfordshire Police Authority v Constable CA 12-Feb-2009
The police had responded to a riot at Yarlswood detention centre. They had insurance to cover their liability under the 1886 Act, but the re-insurers said that the insurance did not cover the event, saying that the liability was for statutory . .
CitedThe Mayor’s Office for Policing and Crime v Mitsui Sumitomo Insurance Co (Europe) Ltd and Others SC 20-Apr-2016
The Court considered the quantification of damages to be awarded to a business suffering under riots under the 1886 Act, and in particular whether such recoverable losses included compensation for consequential losses, including loss of profits and . .
Lists of cited by and citing cases may be incomplete.

Police, Damages

Updated: 19 July 2022; Ref: scu.276537